Rameswaram - The Holy Land of South India
Rameswaram is an ancient pilgrim center in India. It is a land filled with historical monuments that symbolize the legends in the Indian epic. Located in the south India state of Tamil Nadu, the place has a great significance in Hindu mythology. It is chronicled in the holy Hindu scripture of Ramayana that Rama, the seventh avatar of Vishnu, built a bridge to Lanka from Rameswaram. The mission aimed to rescue Sita from the demon king Ravana. It is believed that, after killing Ravana, Rama absolved the sin by making a Shiva linga for praying to God Shiva. The divine idol is still preserved in the Ramanathaswamy temple— the topmost attraction in Rameswaram. Thousands of devotees and tourists travel to the place to visit the temple and enjoy the meditative atmosphere that eases all the stress of daily life.
Apart from the temple, there are many other tourist places in Rameswaram that offer a variety of sights to the visitors. The second-longest railway bridge in India, Pamban railway bridge, is located in Rameswaram. Another unique place is the ghost town of Dhanushkodi that remains uninhabited for more than five decades. Agnitheertham, the holy temple tank which is believed to wash away all the sins is alluring. The tourists traveling to Rameswaram love to visit the Panchamukhi Hanuman temple with the idol portraying rare five faced Hanuman.
Rameswaram derives its name from the Sanskrit words Rama and Iswara; meaning Lord Rama. The holy place is intricately linked with the Indian epic Ramayana. Many key events in the myth are believed to have happened here. The most prominent legend about the place is that Rama worshiped the god Shiva and bathed in Agnitheertham to free himself of the sin of killing Ravana. Ramanathaswamy temple was constructed in the location to enshrine the Shiva lingam that Rama built for the purpose. Another legend is that of Vibheeshana, the younger brother of Ravana, making a pact with Rama at this place. Kothandaramaswamy temple which encompasses an envoy of deities including Vibheeshana was established to commemorate the pact. The Panchamukhi Hanuman temple, another famous religious center, is very close to Rameswaram. It reminds the pilgrims of Hanuman's victory over Mahiravana by assuming his five-faced form and rescuing Rama and Lakshmana.
Rameswaram is also famous for the Ariyaman beach which attracts tourists with its 2 kilometers long sandy beach. The ghost town of Dhanushkodi and the long Pamban bridge is also sure to fill you with awe. These tourist places make Rameswaram one of the most attractive tourist destinations in South India.
Top attractions in Rameswaram
Arulmigu Ramanathaswamy Temple
Rameshwaram Temple renowned as the Arulmigu Ramanathaswamy Temple is one of the prominent attractions of Rameswaram. The temple is popular as one of the 12 Jyotirlinga temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. Also, the shrine is famously known as the 8th Tevara Stalams in the Pandya. The Ramanathaswamy temple is one of the prominent attractions and is considered as a place to gain salvation.
Dhanushkodi is a ghost town on the south-eastern tip of Pamban Island. Once a bustling trade town, the land was devastated by a cyclone which hit it in 1964. The calamity cost the life of approximately 2000 people and resulted in the abandonment of the town. Dhanushkodi remains uninhabited ever since. The ruins of the churches, post office, and railway station stand reminiscent of the once busy neighborhood. The sight can make you melancholic but the gloom will soon give way to thrill as you travel further East. Arichal Munai, the last point of land where you can see the meeting point of the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal, is an enthralling location that lies ahead. Hence don’t forget to include Dhanushkodi in your list of things to do in Rameswaram.
The oldest sea bridge in India, Pamban bridge is one of the exciting tourist places in Rameswaram. Opened in 1914, the railway bridge connects the town of Mandapam in mainland India with Pamban island and Rameswaram. It is also the second-longest sea bridge in India with a length of 2,065 m. The engineering marvel has a double-leaf bascule section that can be raised manually to let barges and ships pass by. Following the cyclone of 1964, the bridge was damaged and repair works had to be carried out. You can travel through the road bridge built parallel to the railway bridge and enjoy the sight.
Rameshwaram, the holy space has many Agni Theerthams and temples. This pilgrimage holds a major place in the life of Hindu believers. It is considered auspicious to visit Rameshwaram during the new moon and full moon days. This theertham also has a place in the renowned Hindu texts including Skanda Purana, Narada Purana, and Sethu Purana. It is believed that Lord Rama took bath in this theertham after returning rescuing Sita. A visit to the Theertham is a special experience for believers.
Kothandaramaswamy temple is situated at 12Km from the main city, a prominent place to visit. The temple is more than 1000 years old and has withstood destructive cyclone of 1964. This temple is dedicated to Lord Rama, a historical building and the walls of the temple are carved with magnifying paintings. These paintings represent the characters from the Ramayana, the sacred Hindu text and have the images of Goddess Sita, Lord Rama, Lord Lakshmana, Lord Hanuman, etc.
Villoondi Theertham is one of the 64 theertham and is one of the pristine beaches. A respected Shiva Shrine Thrayambakeshvarar is located here. There is a freshwater spring located within the sea that makes this site even more special. According to myths, after saving Sita from Ravana, Sri Raman visited Rameswaram and carried out the rituals and then installed the Shiva Linga. After performing the rituals, when Sita asked for water, Rama took his arrow and shot it into the sea. The place where the arrow was stuck was named "Villoondi" which is regarded as ‘the place pierced by arrows' and ‘Theertham' which is regarded as holy water in Tamil.
Just 21 kilometers away from the holy city, a shimmering beach awaits tourists: the Ariyaman beach. It became a popular tourist destination of Rameswaram due to its exotic appearance. The atmosphere of the seashore is calm with two kilometers stretch of white sand and gently lapping sea by its side. It is the best place for those who wish to unwind and relax. You can enjoy a refreshing swim in the shallow waters and a rejuvenating sunbath on the beach. Adding to the attractiveness, the place also has a watchtower which gives a mesmerizing bird’s eye view of the shore. There is also a children’s park at the beach which will keep the kids occupied while you enjoy some beach volley on the sandy coastline. The activities and serene atmosphere make Ariyaman beach a suitable spot for tourism in Rameswaram.
Panchamukhi Hanuman Temple
Panchamukhi Hanuman Kovil, literally the five-faced Hanuman temple, is a place of worship dedicated to Hanuman, the emissary and great devotee of Hindu god Rama. The idol here depicts the five faces of Lord Hanuman. With Hanuman in the middle, the idol portrays the countenances of Varaha, Garuda, Narasimha, and Hayagriva. According to legend, Mahiravana abducted Rama and Lakshmana and took them to Patala. Hanuman who went searching for the brothers reached the place and found the captives. He deduced that to kill Mahiravana he had to simultaneously extinguish five lamps placed in different directions. So he assumed the form of Panchamukhi Hanuman and put out all the lamps at the same time. The interesting myth and the rare idol make the place one of the most visited places in Rameswaram.
Best Time To Visit Rameswaram
The southern part of India experiences a tropical climate and there is not much variation in temperature throughout the year. As the weather in Rameswaram is mostly hot, it is better to visit the holy land in the winter season; that is from October to April. The climate will be pleasant during this time of the year with temperatures ranging from 17 to 30 degrees Celsius.
The monsoon season which starts in July and extends till September is wet and has temperatures between 28 to 35 degrees Celsius. Many tourists prefer to visit the place during this season; especially in August. If you love the rains, you can call on the destination during monsoon. But do not forget to carry an umbrella with you at all times as the rain can be quite heavy sometimes.
March marks the beginning of the summer season in Rameswaram. The temperature begins to rise gradually and can reach up to 43 degrees Celsius. It is best to avoid traveling to the place during this time if you are not a fan of intense heat and profuse sweating.
How To Reach Rameswaram
Rameswaram can be easily reached from almost all other important cities in India. The high connectivity is one of the factors that makes the Rameswaram tour attractive. You can choose to travel by air, rail or road according to your preference.
- By Air: If you prefer a flight, there is an aerodrome nearby: Madurai airport. The terminus is 149 kilometers away from the pilgrim center. You can easily get a taxi cab or a bus that will take you to Rameswaram.
- By Train: There is a railway station in Rameswaram where most trains passing through the route halt. Regular train services are also available to the place from all major cities in India.
- By Road: You can reach the tourist destination by taking National Highway 87. It gives you the unique opportunity to cross the Pamban Bridge (Annai Indira Gandhi Bridge) before entering into Rameswaram island. Regular bus services are also available from all major cities to the location.